There's more to green products than just an official-looking emblem on the packaging. Ingredients get top consideration — and buzzwords include organic, sustainable, renewable and recycled. Yet not everything that's dubbed "eco-chic" by advertisers is automatically earth-friendly. For example, wood is a renewable resource, but exotic species are not always harvested sustainably. Corn-based products are biodegradable, but what about the environmental impacts of growing corn? And then there's the matter of shipping: Even goods that are produced in the most environmentally responsible manner get blacklisted when their carbon footprints grow large because of the fossil fuel burned in bringing them a long way to consumers.
So you want to do right by the earth, but you don't want to handcraft all your gifts from tree bark and dried grass, right? Here's a roundup of locally made items that may not come with a "Certified Organic" stamp but are green due to their local sourcing, natural and nontoxic ingredients, and creative reuse or "upcycling" of materials. Though far from complete, the list provides an idea of what's available:
• Honeywear, based in Alexander, N.C., was a finalist in the 2008 Forbes.com "Boost Your Business" contest, and was named among the business magazine's top-five small-company picks in the annual competition. Working with local sewing company Sewlink, Honeywear's Christen Ward manufactures the Baby Bee Sling baby carrier. She's also launching a line of locally manufactured children's clothing. All products are made of organic cotton and silk. www.honeywear.net
• Spiritex (61 1/2 N. Lexington Ave., and 16 Haywood Street, Asheville, 254-8949) is a wholesaler of fabric and a clothing label, but to Asheville shoppers it's probably best known as a retail clothing store. Founders Daniel and Marylou Sanders got their start during the 80s at a screen-printing company that handled clients like Kool and the Gang and Twisted Sister. In '91 they created Ecosport, the first company to use organic cotton for mass production. By the end of the decade they'd relocated to Asheville. The couple's Lexington Ave. storefront offers a range of national brand organic fiber labels as well as Marylou's original clothing designs and graphic print tees. www.spiritex.net
• Faerie Made Soaps was dreamed up by owner Tina Glen so that she could work from home while raising her children. She handcrafts natural artisan soaps and body-care products and sells them online and through the French Broad Food Co-Op, Beanwerks and the Asheville Chamber of Commerce. Her soaps include "Gypsy Spice," oatmeal honey with goat milk and lavender citrus. Check out her body butters, muscle rubs and perfume sprays too. www.faeriemadesoaps.com
• The Old Wood Co. states in its mission that the company specializes in using "the finest old reclaimed wood available" and adheres to "health conscious finishing methods, companywide recycling/upcycling efforts, and ethical business practices." Rare American chestnut and other reclaimed woods are used in cool, rugged-meets-sleek designs. www.theoldwoodco.com
• Sew Moe is a unique apparel line designed by Moe Erin Donnelly. The clothing incorporates recycled fabrics (along with new and sustainable fabrics), often culled from secondhand clothes. Designs are often based on vintage styles, with an eye toward modern silhouettes. Sew Moe clothing can be purchased at Etsy.com and at HoneyPot (86 N Lexington Ave., Asheville, 225-0304), which also sells designs by other upcycle artists. www.sewmoe.com
• Green Girl Basics' Web site boasts, "Tested on Humans." And why not? Owner Colleen Trickett's toiletries are handmade from oils, butters and essential oils. The juicy-delicious "Sunburst Lotion," a euphoric blend of lime, grapefruit, lemon and orange, is a top seller. Find Green Girl products in local stores and farmers' markets. www.greengirlbasics.com
• Soulshine Beeswax Candles, based in Black Mountain, creates and sells handmade candles in all sizes and shapes, from tapers and pillars to votives and tea lights. Explains the company's website, "All of our candles are hand poured or hand dipped using raw, filtered beeswax. We do not add synthetic color or fragrance to any of our candles." www.esoulshine.com
• Local visual artist James Bursenos creates his mystical and, lately, geometric-inspired work using ecologically sustainable materials. "Mineral spirits contain petrochemicals and usually are in the varnishes that oil painters use," says Bursenos. He employs a citrus-based solvent instead and BioPoly (a wood varnish) in place of the standard varnish used for glazes in oil paint. These products come from Asheville-based Earth Paint. Contact Bursenos through www.solsticestudios.net . Learn more about Earth Paint at www.earthpaint.net .
• Local entrepreneurs Lauri "Farm Girl" Newman and Carol Motley are turning their interest in nature and the cycles of life into a store where patrons can shop for native plants and natural burial products. Bury Me … Naturally and Farm Girl (227 Haywood Road, West Asheville, 776-7464) will offer fresh, locally grown flowers, native potted plants, terrariums and unique garden memorials, along with 100-percent natural and biodegradable caskets, shrouds and urns, unique memorial services, community bereavement resources, books, cards and natural burial resources. The grand opening is slated for the end of the month.